Once called Caput Mundi, a crossroads for people and empires, today it is simply Rome – a city full of contradictions, yet magnificent all the same. This is a metropolis where the splendors of the past and the precarity of the present manage to coexist; where the future comes forward timidly; and where the imbued cultural significance is often in view from the streets you walk down, free and accessible to all.
Then there are the museums, some notorious and some less renowned, but all equally worth a visit. If it is true that Rome is the green of trees in bloom and a sky almost always clear, it is also true that it is a welcoming home for art, both ancient and modern. Here are five must-see museums for when you visit Rome!
Although they occupy a large part of the Vatican City’s land, to access these museums you need to “travel” to Rome. It is in the capital, in fact, that you will find their entrance. The history of the Vatican Museums has its roots in the 16th century, when they were built by Pope Julius II. Although he was known as the “terrible Pope”, Pope Julius II was also a Renaissance patron of the arts. Today the Vatican Museums showcase the Sistine Chapel (frescoed by Michelangelo), and the papal apartments, which are finely decorated by Raphael.
Address: Viale Vaticano 6, Rome | Ticket cost: €20.50| Virtual Tour: click here
Collated within these museums is the history of Rome. Founded in 1734 under Pope Clement XII, Capitoline is also known as the first museum center where art could be enjoyed not only by patrons, but also by the public.
There are numerous artworks present in the Capitoline Museums that cover many styles and mediums. For example, in the picture gallery there is the St. John the Baptist by Caravaggio, while elsewhere, there is the bronze sculpture of the Capitoline Wolf which was thought to date back to the Etruscan period, but was only recently discovered to be built in the Renaissance period. Finally, we find the Portrait of Charles I of Anjou by Arnolfo di Cambio, the first sculpted portrait of the post-Classical period.
Address: Piazza del Campidoglio 1, Rome | For ticket prices, visit their website directly.
National Gallery of Modern Art
At the foot of the entrance to the park of Villa Borghese, surrounded by flowering magnolias and centuries-old trees, stands the National Gallery of Modern Art. Built in 1883 a few years after the unification of Italy, the aim of this institution was to collect the works of all modern and contemporary artists who could not find space to be exhibited in other Italian museums. There are many masterpieces contained within this gallery, from the Three Ages of the Woman by Gustav Klimt, to the Lying Nude by Amedeo Modigliani. A visit to this pearl of modern and contemporary art is a must.
Address: Viale delle Belle Arti 137, Rome | Tickets: €10
This is a museum destined for notoriety, if only for the architect of excellence who designed it, Zaha Hadid. Today, with its minimalist and ultra geometric aesthetics, this museum collects the works of the greatest artists in recent years – Gerhard Richter, Kiki Smith, Maurizio Cattelan, Stefano Arienti – becoming a point of reference for contemporary art lovers and for all those who, in a city sometimes suffocated by its past, are looking for a breath of fresh air.
Address: Via Guido Reni 4a, Rome | Tickets: €11| Virtual Tour: click here
The center of Rome is the beating heart of the city. The part that best tells the past of a metropolis so convoluted and yet, or perhaps for this very reason, so fascinating. The streets around Piazza Navona become very narrow, with the pavement changing and the famous cobblestones becoming more noticeable. Even the light changes, thanks also to the terracotta-colored buildings that reflect the sun’s rays, changing their tone.
In this place, where sometimes time seems to have stopped, stands the Chiostro del Bramante. This excellent creation was made by Donato Bramante (Julius II’s favorite architect) who was in perpetual competition with Michelangelo. Attached to the church of Santa Maria della Pace, the Cloister now hosts art exhibitions, including the likes of Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and the London School. Simply unmissable.
Address: Via della Pace, Rome | The cost of the ticket varies depending on the exhibition on display.